I don’t know about the rest of you, but I am having a very serious love affair with butternut squash. This is somewhat funny to me, because up until my junior year of college, I didn’t even know that I liked winter squash. Zucchini? Sure. The yellow equivalent of zucchini? Absolutely. Especially in pastas, stir fries, quick breads; you name it, summer squash was more or less my thing. Winter squash? I turned my nose up at it. I don’t know if it was because it was a roasted vegetable, and up until then, my picky palate had despised the thought of roasted vegetables, or if I couldn’t quite get beyond the apparently mushy texture, but it was way not my thing.
Enter Graze, which is just about the best restaurant that has made an appearance in my life so far. Several of my friends took me to Graze for lunch before I went abroad (the first time), and I discovered their butternut squash panini. This is, by far, my favorite sandwich I’ve ever eaten. I regularly skipped chorale my senior year (ahem, whoops?) to go out with my friend and eat this panini. This was my comfort food when I had just gotten back to Walla Walla after winter break, was a constant staple while I wrote my thesis. This is an absolutely fantastic sandwich, and provided quite the introduction to my love of winter squash. I will confess, I still don’t exactly love to eat plain roasted squash. It still seems pretty mushy to me, and the flavor of squash all by itself doesn’t really do it for me. But put a nice butternut squash in a sauce with some gnocchi (more on this later)? Add it to other roasted vegetables? Add some cheese? Gosh, I am all in for it.
I am also all in for it in these cookies. While I have just listed about three or four other good reasons to keep your butternut squash away from your baked goods, these cookies are pretty fantastic. I made these during a thesis-writing break, and they were delicious. They can be infinitely adapted; add more healthy ingredients, just add the chocolate chips – truly, you can do whatever you want with them. They are hearty without being too savory; they have just a dash of sweetness, combined with many ingredients that will make you feel like you’ve made a reasonably healthy choice. Bulk up the dried fruit and nut content, and take these slightly cakey cookies as a snack for your afternoon ski. Add the chocolate back in and enjoy on a cool winter afternoon. Whatever spin you put on these cookies, you can trust that you’ve used that precious squash for good reason.
Butternut Squash Cookies (adapted from Moosewood Restaurant: Cooking for Health)
Notes: I’m pretty sure, looking back on this, that I used pureed pumpkin (I think it was lurking in my freezer and had to go before I moved out). It will interchange beautifully with the butternut squash, but each will lend its own unique flavor. The addition of garam masala might surprise many, since this is usually a savory spice. I find that it goes well with the pumpkin/chocolate combination, and loved it in this. The cinnamon offsets it nicely, still lending a slightly sweeter (rather than savory) flavor. In the interest of full disclosure, I have not made these with sesame seeds as I suggest, but I can just bet you they’re delicious.
Makes app. 36 cookies
1 1/2 cups pureed cooked butternut squash or pumpkin
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup olive oil
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup spelt or quinoa flour, or substitute for 1/2 cup oats
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup chopped nuts (I would recommend trying pistachios or almonds!)
1/2+ chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped (c)raisins
1/2 cup sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds
2 tbsp sesame seeds
Preheat oven to 375 F. In a medium bowl, combine pureed squash, brown sugar, olive oil, egg, and vanilla extract. Stir together until the egg and the oil are well incorporated. Add the flours (and oats, if you’re using them), the cinnamon, garam masala, baking powder and soda, and the salt and fold the dry ingredients into the wet. Add whatever mix-ins you’d like, and stir until just combined. Pour the sesame seeds into a separate bowl. Roll heaping tablespoonfuls in the sesame seeds before placing on two baking sheets. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes. Air on the side of caution so that they remain soft. Cool on a wire rack. Cookies will keep up to two weeks (hah!) in a sealed plastic container, or up to a month in the freezer.
Side note: yes, I am home and back to blogging! I encourage you all to keep breathing, because I don’t know when the next update will be.